Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has vowed to dig in against the internal campaign being waged against his Nationals leadership.
Mr McCormack suffered another damaging leak on Wednesday after it emerged his office encouraged Nationals to charge taxpayers for flights and accommodation to a lavish party in Melbourne.
A partyroom meeting had been timed to coincide with the centenary celebrations next month, according to a text message leaked to The Courier-Mail.
But Mr McCormack has now ruled out charging taxpayers to attend the function, saying MPs and senators would pay for themselves.
He also hit back against Barnaby Joyce’s supporters who continue to destabilise the party on the back of a failed leadership challenge.
“You haven’t seen just how much of a fighter I am. I’m determined to continue to do the job that I have done for two years,” Mr McCormack told the Nine Network.
“I’ve got the support of the majority of my party.”
Mr McCormack said he was sent to Canberra to do a job, not lead a destabilised rabble.
Former deputy prime minister John Anderson, who led the Nationals between 1999 and 2005, said he despaired at the infighting in the party.
“We need to focus on what we have in common and put aside this endless pursuit of self interest,” he told Sky News.
Nationals frontbencher Mark Coulton is also frustrated by the latest episode of infighting.
“I didn’t go into politics to be part of a soap opera,” he told the ABC.
“The people that I represent in regional Australia couldn’t give a rat’s toenail, quite frankly, about the machinations of the National Party.”
Nationals senator Matt Canavan, who quit cabinet to vote against Mr McCormack in last week’s leadership spill, downplayed the expense claim controversy, pointing out the trip is yet to take place.
The leaked text message was clearly designed to damage Mr McCormack.
A small group of Nationals still want him gone as party leader.
Queenslander Llew O’Brien quit the party after the failed coup, claiming his defection was partly motivated by the Nationals’ use of taxpayer funds for travel costs.
Mr O’Brien pointed to one party meeting timed to coincide with the Melbourne Cup.
Hours after he resigned, a handful of Nationals rebels conspired with Labor to hand him a parliamentary promotion, humiliating the government by torpedoing their pick for the job.